If you had an NES, chances are you have fond memories of Punch-Out, the popular boxing game that put you in the boots of diminutive fighter Little Mac as he took on a host of over-the-top opponents (none more so than Mike Tyson in some versions of the game). The Wii reimagining of this classic fighter is only months away from release, and we finally managed to test our skills with a hands-on session today at the Game Developers Conference.
First, those worried that this updated version of Punch-Out would devolve into hectic arm-flailing a la the boxing game in Wii Sports need not be concerned. While you do throw punches by swinging your arms with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, the speed, direction, and number of blows aren't dictated by how quickly or frenetically you wave your arms. In fact, Little Mac will be able to throw only a certain number of punches per second, so you'll have to concentrate on landing the right blows to the right places instead of performing mad, random swings.
Simply punching with the remote and nunchuk will result in body jabs, while pushing up on the nunchuk stick will throw blows to the face. Pushing left or right will make Little Mac dodge in that direction, while pushing down will make him duck. You can also play with just the remote by turning the remote on its side. You use the 1 and 2 buttons for punches and the D pad for movement.
From what we've played of Punch-Out so far, it's sticking remarkably close to the game mechanics that have made the original a much-loved classic. As with the NES version, you'll have to keep a close eye on where your opponent is blocking in order to land hits, and you'll also have to keep an eye on each opponent's specific "tells" before they throw a punch to figure out which way to dodge. Little Mac's heart meter also makes a comeback, as does his special star uppercut. The heart meter goes down every time your opponent blocks a punch or you get hit, and when it reaches zero you'll be unable to throw a punch until you successfully dodge an attack. As for the star uppercut, Little Mac earns these by hitting his opponent at certain times.
Adding even further to the nostalgia is the fact that the NES game's original wacky characters are making a comeback. In our play time, we took on the easy-to-pummel Glass Joe, the militaristic Von Kaiser, and the loose-shorts-wearing King Hippo.
We're pleased to see that Nintendo has forgone that frenetic Wii Boxing route to focus instead on the key gameplay that made Punch-Out great, and we're looking forward to getting some more hands-on time with this game. Check GameSpot for more details on Punch-Out soon.